(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Islamic Culture By Khalifa Salahuddin Ahmad"

ISLAMIC CULTURE 

What Do We Mean By It 



. 




i 



KHALIFA SALAHUDDIN AHMAD 



ISLAMIC CULTURE 

What Do We Mean By It 



KHALIFA SALAHUDDIN AHMAD 



'Publtshed by 

THE NASHRO - ISHA'AT 

R A B W A H — West Pakistan 



. 






Printed at 
The Lion Press, Hospital Road, Lahore. 





ISLAMIC COLTUHB 

What do we mean by it ? 

mltnS - b ° dy - WOuld '? ainsa y that, nowadavs 
S d toTnd 18 " COntroversial *& It is rSy 
cnltnr. m , i?, a com P reh ensive dennition of 

su L a SttAS- S t y ft? thCre reaIly *&* 
sucn d culture on winch humanity can bank 

for a peaceml and prosperous social life True 

oee he fe5S CU - ' Ure -^ 1 ' enables us to livc 
togetner as a iamily, tnbe or nation R,,t- ;r 

T ?A de f rived of such a Primtry necessity 
o^slontnd 3 ^ ' ^ * WC are in a «tate 

andTuts ideoioi??h:ris ab r our soc i ai 

rhe wnriri «^«^iu» 1 nat is the cause whv 

Ho^er 'Bert? a n?t' iS , Under « turmonl 
S°,. e ; '■ i and Russel has depicted the 
Mtuation ,n hese wonls, «Thc conmct ei&ted 

nhiSsoll bel ° re tJ l e rf f of ' What wc ****** as 

SBP&S? " ^t quite eX P licit in aiready 

dSSLh ftSS '; J n Chan ^ forms > * h as 
persisted down to the present day, and no dn»h< 

will persist for many ages to comc " 



2 



"It is clear that each party to this dispute— as 
to all that persists through long periods of time— 
is Dartly ris?ht and partly wrong. Social cohesion 
is a necessity, and mankind has never yet 
succeeded in enforcing cohesion by merely rational 
arguments. In general, important cmhsations 
start with a rigid and superstitious system, 
gradually relaxed, and leading to certam stage, 
fo a period of a brilliant genius, while the good 
of the old tradition remams, and the evil, 
inherent in its dissolution, has not yet developed. 
But as the evil unfolds, it leads to anarchy, 
then inevitably, to a new tyranny, producing 
a new synthesis secured by new system ot dogma. 
(History of Western Philosophy, page 20). 

So, the present conhision and connict is a. 
natural outcome of the relaxation of the period 
which Russel terms as a "rigid and superstitious 
system." Obviously, he thereby means a rehgious 
period. It shows that no commumty or nation 
subsists, or has ever subsisted, without a rehgious 
origin, because it is the religion alone ; that lorms 
a nucleus of a strong cohesive attraction, around 
which mankind Aocks in such a congemal society 
as has been very hard for time and corruption 
to break it. It is about this stage of rehgious 
relaxation that Russel says : "A penod of brilhant 
genius" takes its place and the 'eyil unfolds, 
it leads to anar^chy, then, inevitably, to a new 
tyranny." Consequently, he holds that the 
present civilization of the twentieth century has 
brought the whole world in the grip of lts "new 
Lyranny," and it will bring about, as corrollary, 



3 



"a new synthesis, secured by new system of 
dogma." But to avoid this new synthesis or a 
reyiyal of a religious era, he says disdainfully : 
"The doctrine of liberalism is an attempt to 
escape from this endless oscillation, Whether 
this attempt can succeed only thc future can 
determine." 

Similarly, Toynbee has referred to this 
oscillative phenomenon in the "Civilization. on 
Trial" purporting that because our civilization 
has reached its self-destructive climax, there 
will inevitably succeed a religious era. Hence, 
it would be futile to hope " that pleadings of 
a selfish materialistic and dying civilization might 
help avert the nemesis. 

Therefore, for one thing, what we mean 
by Islamic culture is the /uture culture of the 
world. We claim it to be so 5 because of the 
fact that in the progressive series of cultural 
oscillations, Islam is the last and perfect religion, 
revealed for mankind, as God says, "This day, 
have I perfected your faith for you and completed 
My favour for you and have chosen for you 
Islam as the religion," (5 : 43). 

But Islamic culture would not, to be sure 5 
bring about a rigid and superstitious system, 
as feared by Russel, it being noted that, Islam, 
and for that matter, the system creatcd by it, 
can be no other than a most liberal institution 
man has ever seen. I base this assertion on 
the Quranic verse itselti which says, "tn thc 
matters of faith, there shall be no coercion," 



c tW « Let them perish, who perish by their 
so that, ^ei uk. f > • wno survwe 

XdLTo« mculcate to teachin» *£■££ 
wtead it provides "clear prooi and tnertuy 
luows free play of reason to a seeker after the 
truth We arenot in the habit of presentmg a 
Sure W that may be *%* j^ ȣ* 
;rSmp=Se to L C tn°derstanding and 

Lelli g enc P e of ^J^S^k M 
same reason, we can say tnai wwi ; 

Islamic culture is a social ^" "J^Lj 811 
be subject to the scansion of human ^telhgence^ 

It should be also borne m mind ^that 
™h*t we mean by Islamic culture is not the 
Sne S5n?« is usually meant by some of the 
ctolars h concerned. They take <^^£? 
viscissitudes which vanous nations and — 
tiM e-o throush in the process ot ielaxation. 
Such attempts have proved abortive m sohnng 
Sting cuhural con/ndrum. Neverthdess wha^ 
we mean by Isiamic c.ulture is its mterpretation 
Ts iUs applicablc to the present world conditions 
becau" the teachings brought by the great 
Prophet Muhammad, (peace and the 1 W«s^> ot 
Godbeupon him), were umversal, for God has 
said : "And We have sent thee not but as a 
mercy for all people." (21:107). 

Tn view of the controversial opinions m 
dehnlg cuhure, let us make the most generahsed 
and universally accepted pnn cl P le ^ ' ou J 
starting point. This will enable us to make a 



^ 



comparatiye stucly of Islamic culturc, in the ho 
that our endeavour may heip elirninate sor 
of the underlying difficulties. 

Organically, man falls in the domain 
biological enguiry. I bring as witness an excer 
from the article under caption "biology" in t 
Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910), written I 
T. Huxley and P. G. Mitchell which runs 
follows, "The biological sciences are those whi< 
deal with the phenomena manifested by livir 
matter ; and though it is customary ai 
convenient to group apart such of the 
phenomena as are termed mental, and such 
them as are exhibited by men in societ 
under the head of psychology and sociolog 
yet it must be allowed that no natur 
boundary separates the subject matter of t? 
latter sciences from that of biology. Psycholoj 
and sociology is inseparably linked wi 
physiology ; and the phases of social li 
exhibited by animals other than man, whk 
some time curiously foreshadow human polic 
fell strictly within the provinceof the biologist." 

This exception makes it all too clear th 
social life of man should be viewed as benefici 
to mind and body alike, and not as somethii 
having a connection with bodilv urges on 
because as we have seen "psychology and sociolo 
are inseparably linked with physiology." In oth 
words, it means that k would prove harml 
to human nature if a culture looks after t 
material aspects only, divorced from mtty 
and spiritual sides. In the same way, if 



6 



soiritual code oflife, which pays no hcedio thc 
corporal exigencies, can also prove uyurious to 
1° In this respect also, we can claim on 

^eroundsthatlslanuakes full regard of both 
the ■ < Wparably linkcd" aspects of human hte and 
society. ...'■■ 

A recalcitrant may weH contend, however 
that because some of the animals, such « : ante 
and bees, instintively lollow such phas^ Qt 
social life" which «cunously foreshadow human 
policy," it shows that in due cOurse, m «^W* 
also attain a better culture on the basis ot 
Svival f the nttest." This plea presupposes 
that the mighty and his culture .should prevad and 
that the weak, together with his idedogy. itoOd 
vanish. We leave this debatable question whether 
this principle is apphcable m general or not 
it is accepted on all hancl that a majonty from 
amono- the animals are weak and yet they 
lourisl, Thereibre, the governmg pnncip ^ . of 
their survival should certamly be diAerent 1 om 
«survival ■ of the uttest." Nor is it a fact that 
survivalof ants and ^epends ^thwr social 

contra^! h withor P a r sodal life human existence 
sSm? to bc dimcult. Man is altogether a sui 
^wAind in view of his being « ^ellectually 
conscious," so that he is apt to adopt any 
couSe of life -disastrous or benehcial --through 

•his iree choice. In contradistinction it has been 
' proved, by observations and ex P enments, thatit s 

4t possible for any other ammal to deviate 



of lile they follow instinctively. Yes, it is 
true that animals also possess a degree of 
consciousness but such consciousness remains 
confined to instinctive circles only, to help the 
fulfilment of the urges they are driven at; so 
that we shall call them " instinctively conscious " 
beings to show to this radical distinction. 

The Holy Quran lays down that man is not 
bound by a* instinctive course as far as his con- 
duct and career are concerned, save that only 
intellectual and endo-psychic understanding for 
good and bad, virtue and vice, have jbeeri 
provided in the character of his mind. Thus 
God says, "There is nothing for man except what 
he tries for. 55 As regards animals, we are told on 
the other hand, c; They do whatever is ordained 
for them." Further, as to the diverse behaviours 
of animals they evince, we are told, that they 
are symbols fbr men in order to enable them. 
to choose their course to order their life, humble 
or brutal, social or unsocial, satanic or virtuous, 
and so on. It is also said that "There are so many, 
who are led astray by them, and so many, who 
follow the right path." Thus not only treedom 
of conduct and behaviour has been bestowed 
upon man, they are also given the chance to win 
God 5 s pleasure and reward. 

To remove further any evolutionary misunder- 
standing regarding the cultural issue, let me 
quote Sir Eliot Smith, one of the loremost 
anthropologists of the day. lie says, "Although 
the use of the word evolution in ethnology is 
not half a century old, the idea to which this 



o 



error in terminology was unhappily applied, is \ 
much older. It can, in fact, be traced back as \ 
early as the eighteenth century and perhaps 
earlier still. But when it assurned the false label 
'eyolution/ it acquireci the glamour of tashionable 
phrase and thereby. enjoyed an immunity trorn 
critieism. The idea of the independent develop- 
ment pf culture thus gradually hardened into 

a rigid dogma ...HenCe the process involved 

in originating and diffusion of knowledge and 
man's interpretation of it is something different 
from organic evolution. It is, therefore, dangerous 
and misleading to use such biological terms as 
c evolution' and c convergence' as so many writers 
are now doing, in relerence to cultural history 
and to circumstances that are fundamentally 
distinct from those biological phenomena in 
reference to which the terms in question were 
devised." (Erolution in the Light of Modern 
Knowledge, pages 299 and 315). 

Unless one blindly follows "scientihc ortho- 
doxy" one would have to face the fact thatncw 
cultures develop inclependently as a reVolution, not 
evolution, to save from utter destruction and to 
. open up new and peaceful avenues for lurther 
progress. 

The existing dominant culture, namely the 
the materialistic civilization of the twentieth 
century, along with its allied cultures which try to 
follow its footstcps 3 are chiefly concerned with 
the temporal and secular side of human 
affairs. The spiritual or, so to say, psychological 



its purpose the fact has eithcr been titally east 
aside or deliberately put in the melting pot. The 
result is that the material side of human lifc, with 
all its good and bad efFccts, has progressed so 
far ofl\ ( that the either side of the picture 
seerris to be of little importance at alh In 
sharp contrast there are cultures, that pay no 
heed to bodily and social requirements, contem- 
plating exclusive stress on spiritual aspects of 
life only. In the Islamic perspective, neither of 
them can be counted as true cultures, for we 
are urged to pray : u O our Lord grant us well- 
being of this world, and the well-being of the 
world to come, and thus save us from the fire of 
punishment." 

It would, therefore, be an utter falsehood to 
allege that Islamic culture, as a religious code, does 
not recommend a full scale material progress, hand 
in hand, with spiritual and virtuous life, as it has 
been esplicitly stated, <s It is exclusively for your 
bcneiit whatever there exists in the world," and not 
only this much, but we are also taught how 
to deiive benelit from the material world : "By 
putting your thought in the making of the earth 
and skies," that is, by scientific thought. That is 
why, at the achrent of Islam, old treasures of 
phiiosophy and science, buried for centuries past, 
were unearthed ancl in a comparatively short 
time, a great deal of advance was made < upon 
them. Since, however, acquiiition of scientific 
knowledge was enjoined as a religous duty^ Butit 
slackened with the gradual decline of faith. It 
followsv theretore, that there is. no other way for 



strcngthening a Muslim society materially than 
through a revival of Islam itself. 

European countries took to scientiiic 
pursuits in the teeth of strong opposition from 
Papacy anci the dread of the Inquisitors of 
Faith, because they found that it was hard to 
compete out an Islamic polity, the helds oi 
trade and knowledge. As a result of 
opposition of the ecclesiastical prince the gulf 
between religion and science deepened in 
proportion to the progress in the latter iield. 
In practical terms, all European^ nations 
are materialistic. Nevertheless, this great 
experiment affbrds to learn how far such a 
culture could prove a success so far as it is 
concerned with human well-being. In this 
regard I would like to bring Sigmond Freud 
as~ witness, being himself an ardent supporter 
of the present culture, and psycho-analytically 
a keen observer too. The quotations which 
follow are from his treatise, cc Future of an 
Illusion," exclusively 3 especially from the places 
where he has dealt with the present culture 
..and.its effects upon human nature. At the 
very outset ,Freud has .realised, 4C One thought 
at first that the essence of culture lay in the 
: conquest of nature for the means of 
supporting. life 5 and in eliminating the dangers 
that threaten , culture by the suitable 
: distribution of these among mankind, but now 
the emphasis seems to have shiited away from 
the material plane to the psychic. The 

:4.:«~l «n^o+irt^ ig wVietlip.r nnd to what 



11 



extent one could succeed, hrst, in diminishing 
the burden of the instinctual sacnhces 
imposed on men j secondly, in reconciling 
them to thbsĕ that must necessanly remainj 
and thirdly, in compcnsating them ior these. 
He aiso 'said : "Thus in addition to the 
resources, there are the means of defendmg 
culture : the coersive measures, and others 
that are intended to reconcile men to it and 
to recompense them for their sacrihces. And 
these last may be descrived as the psychical 
sphere of culture." It is true that without 
some sacrincss no social life is possible ; but 
without a social life there cannot be progress 
and well-being. So, the question is, can an 
intellectual being regard it as good hving to 
suffer liie-long checks upon his liberty, 
imposed bv social prohibitions, such as, paying 
ever increasing taxes from his own earnings 
and property, sacriHcing his time or even his .nle 
to serve other members of the society without 
anv hopc of reward or "recompense" m this 
Hfe? That is why it is necessary to resort 
to "coersive measures" to preserve such a 
culture. thev cannot do it without U 1. U-, 
police and ' sometimes without- mihtary lorce, 
supplemented by cour.ts, jails and concentration 
camps to suppress human nature._ These 
itieasures ultimately lead to Irustrations and 
privations, causing discomfort antagonism and 
mental ills. The latest reports of genera 
check up show a heavy percentage amongst 
the intellectuals and the mediocres ot the 

. «i- i ««« PnrTArmrr frr\m ITl?inV WPCS 



1£ 



of neurosis. At the same time there scems 
no other way to remove these ills, save 
as Freud has suggested, by entering in the 
"psychical sphere" of culture. He has 
expressed the hope that duration and habit 
may eliminate such ill feelings against the 
"culture" or that exclusive education rnay 
train human mind to get reconciled with 
cultural prohibitions and "instinctual renuncia- 
tions." Psycho-analytically, however, he is 
not hopeful, because, "That is surely an 
illusion ; in this decisive point human nature 
is hardly likely to alter," for the simple reason 
that man, being a rational and intellectual 
entity, it is difficult for him to endure 
sufferance for purposes of having a joyful life 
only. Human nature demands a purpose 
higher than living an animal life, besides a 
reward or at least appreciation for his deeds 
atid sacrifices which he does not get in this 
life. Therefore ? as far as human nature is 
concerned, nothing can serve this purpose 
except a religion and belief in the life- 
hereafter, Practically such efForts have totally 
failed where men were brought to live without 
a religion, as Freud points out : "Once i 
before, such m attempt to substitute reason 
for religion was made, officially and in the 
grand manner. Surely you remember 
the French Revolution and Robespier, and 
also how short-lived and how cleplorably 
ineffectual the experiment ? It is being repeated 
in Russia at present, and we need not be 
nurious about the result." The result is to be 






' 



the same as it has been in the 'Free Europe' after 
a long and extravagant experiment, carried out 
there in the guise of 'modern civilization' of 
the 'enlightened' era. For still we find that, 
'There are innumerable civilized people who 
would shrink from wurder or incest, and who 
yet do not hesitate to gratify their avarice, their 
aggressiveness and their sexual lust, and who 
have no compunction in hurting others by lying, 
fraud and calumny, so long as they remain 
unpunished for it ; and no doubt this has been 
so for many cultural epochs." "Cultural epochs," 
referred to by Freud in this context, mean 
the past civilizations which always grow as 
excrecent developments on ruins of their mother 
religions. It is true that, such cultures never 
proved a success. On the contrary, because of 
the inherent self-destructive factors, they bnng 
about the necessary conditions for ushering in a 
new era of purely religious import. , _ Freud 
himself has depicted the present conditions of 
the world, and said : "We see that an appallmg 
large number of men are discontented with 
civilization and are" unhappy in it, and feel it is 
as a yoke that must be shaken off, because, 
"It has been admitted that so far science has 
achieved much, but even it has advanced far 
further, it would not sumce for men." 

However, the cardinal question is how these 
gross deficiencies can be removed, and peace 
and comfort restored to the suffermg humamty 
under the crushing "yoke" of the present 

* •!• ,•-_. r? i «u^r^l-c- KaMr irnm Tar.in__ r tnlS 



pertinent question because he ibund it insolubie 
in a material perspective. He iinds himself 
"forced by necessity" to urge, "in all earnestness" 
"even if one knew, and could prove 3 that 
religion was not in possession of truth,. one should 
conceal the fact and behave as the philosophy 
of <asif' demancls..,and this in the interest 
of preservation of everybody. Also said he : 
"But such as they are, these ideas, religious 
in the broadest sense of the word, are prized 
as the most precious possessions of culture, as 
the most valuable thing it has to offer its 
members, far more highly prized than all our 
devices for winning the treasures of the earth, 
for providing men with a sustenance, or for 
preventing their diseases, and so forth ; men 
suppose that life would be intolerable if they 
did not accord these ideas the value that is 
claimed for it. "But on the other hand, if 
experiments have any conclusive value, then 
this great experiment, carried out at the expense 
of human sufferings and sacrifices, undeniably 
bring us face to face the deep reality that reverence 
and love for the Maker is instinctive in human 
psychique. Without this man would never find 
comfort and peace of mind, as his Maker 
Himself has said : "Only in the remembrance of 
God men's hearts are comforted." It also proves 
incontestably that it is dangerous, for, individually 
or collectively, he may be compelled to 
endure a purely secular and materialistic culture. 
That is why, in view of such a culture, Freud 
admitted his inability for "constructing a 



15 

himself forced "in the interest of preserving 
everybody" to have a recourse to religion, 
in spite of being fully aware of "the admission 
that religion no longer has the same inAuence 
on men that it used to have, (we are concerned 
here with European Ghristian culture), And 
this, not because its promises have become 
smaller, but because they appear less credible 
to people." 

In reality the religion, for which humanity 
is yearning today, is that which should be 
convincing according to the highest intellectual 
vision ; and be able to fulfil the needs of the world 
as a whole. This is not true of the religions 
which envisage to solve the limited problems of 
the communities living long ago and were conhned 
in different regions of the world. Past religions, 
especially with their distorted and adulterated 
contents, are not expected to solve present 
problems, or to create a healthy atmosphere that 
may bring about a change in the existing 
climate of opinion. Otherwise, Freud would have 
never said : "We say to oursdves, it would indeed 
be very nice if there were a God, who was both 
creator of the world and a benevolent providence, 
if there were a moral world order and a future life, 
but at the same time it is very odd that this is all 
just as we should wish it ourselves. And it would 
be still odder if our poor, ignorant, enslaved 
ancestors had succeeded in solving all these difficult 
riddles of the universe," though indeed, He 
possesses the same and even more praiseworthy 



the old and obsolete religions are not clynaiinc 
cnough to conyinee the present mind. We arc 
not dealing here with a culture of our ibroiathers 
m retrospect. We are presenting a culture which k 
chronologically the latest, and has been preserved 
bcyond doubt m the self-sarne fbim it was revealed. 
Afortiori it is a comprehensive moral order, 
pertaining to a world society as a unit ; and with 
a promise to refresh i,ts teachings by reformers 
to be raised as, and when needed, in^consonance 
with the demands of the fastly progressive worid. 
It is true that until we do not "get day to day 
proof of a Living God ? no by-gone scriptures and 
long forgotten miracles would convince hurnan 
mind. ^Therefore, lslamic culture also signihes 
thatitisa Providential code of life, revealed by 
the Living God with axiomatic proof to bring 
about complete conviction against modern 
scepticism. 

I don't .think that any iurther proof would be 
needed to show that a materialistic code of life, 
that is to say a culture without religion, can bring 
about human well-being no matter how much 
earthly wealth, alluring lives, great power and 
what not in human nature, would continue its 
quest for a real culture, where spiritual comfort 
and material progress should be blended together 
in a wholesome manner. Besides, there are many 
other points, which have been settled after a long 
and bitter experimentations in favour of Islamic 
cuiture. An instance in point is the pre-Islamic 
ritual of burning or burying women slaves alive 
with their dead masters. On thc other hand 



Islam eradicated slavery, root and branch, and 
cven the prisoners of wars who can be called 
slave in a way must be set free at the earliest. 
Women were given first even the right to 
divorce and inheritance to property to relieve 
them of a merciless and inhuman subjugation. 
Though modern civilization has, willy-nilly, 
abolished slavery, it has kept the feminine sex in the 
same precarious condition of remaining without 
the right of divorce and of inherting property. By 
disallowing polygamy, which in certain circums- 
tances and with a limitation of number was allowed 
by Islam 3 the western culture claims a great 
achievement. But experience has established 
that it was a worst type of slavery that women 
were not being admitted right to separation, and 
the right to share aa inheritable property. 
Though recently, these rights have been recognized 
only to establish supremacy of Islamic culture. 
On the other hand it is also being strongly felt, 
that such occasions do arise when polygamy 
become an indispensible necessity. There can 
arise a political necessity, t6 create better relations 
and nearness between countries, nations or tribes, 
Besides to give protection to widows pr women in 
a country where incidentally they increase in 
numbers over rnen, as for the same fact the present 
condition of Europe itself has become expedient 
for polygamy; where the increase in number of 
women is being felt as unhealthy consequences for 
a normal social life. It would be surprising to 
note that to remedy this morbid situation first 
step has been taken by the women themselves. 
Recently, it was disclosed in thĕ British Parliament, 



that young and independent girls join together in 
twos, threes, or fours and keep jointly a male 
bnly to look after them and their household 
affairs. However, it was questioned whether this 
practice is not the type of polygamy being in 
vogue in Burma, initiated by women and rendering 
the male members of the country addict to 
narcotics and idleness ? 

There are so many other issues, in connection 
with politics, economics, international affairs, 
where, after many trials and errors, conclusions are 
being drawn nearer and nearer to what has 
been laid in the Holy Quran as the ultimate 
solution of future problems of the world, for 
creating peaceful ? progressive and comfortable 
atmosphere. For example, democracy, tolerance, 
mutual help for economic and educational uplift, 
elimination of colour and racial prejudices, etc. 
But these and all other issues to bring about 
a real and congenial culture for mankind can 
be realised in full measures and in a most healthy 
atmosphere if and when Islamic culture is allowed 
to prevail.